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UEFA Women's Champions League group stage preview: Hoffenheim vs HB Køge

Two of the three UEFA competition newcomers in this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League meet at the Dietmar-Hopp-Stadion, as Hoffenheim host fellow debutants HB Køge.

Hoffenheim celebrate a Bundesliga goal
Hoffenheim celebrate a Bundesliga goal Getty Images

Two of the three UEFA competition newcomers in this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League meet at the Dietmar-Hopp-Stadion, as Hoffenheim host fellow debutants HB Køge.

Gabor Gallai’s side, who equalled their best-ever finish of 3rd in last season’s Bundesliga, are one of seven entrants to have made it to the inaugural group stage of this tournament having joined the qualification process in Round 1.

Die Kraichgauer defeated Icelandic outfit Valur (1-0) and 2020/21 Serie A runners-up Milan (2-0) in the first phase, before overcoming Rosengård, who finished second in the 2020 Swedish Damallsvenskan, 6-3 on aggregate in Round 2.

HB Køge will aim to build on the success of scooping the Elitedivisionen title in their first top-flight campaign, having been the first side other than Fortuna Hjørring or Brøndby IF to claim Danish league glory since Odense BK as far back as 2001. The reigning Danish champions arrive in the group stage after winning both legs of their Round 2 tie against Czech Republic title-holders Sparta Prague (1-0 a, 2-0 h).

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Ones to watch - Hoffenheim

Nicole Billa

A forward who is currently in her seventh campaign with Hoffenheim, having joined from St. Pölten, where she won the ÖFB-Frauenliga in 2014/15.

The 25-year-old striker notched 23 goals in the Frauen-Bundesliga last term, finishing as the division’s top scorer with six more than her nearest rival.

Last term was the third time she ended a campaign as a league’s best markswoman, having bagged 24 and 27 in her final two seasons with St. Pölten.

The Austrian international opened her league account for Die Kraichgauer on Saturday in the 2-1 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt, while also scored in the 1-0 Round 1 home qualifying victory against Valur on 17 August.

When not playing football, the former world champion kickboxer works as a kindergarten teacher.

Laura Wienroither

A central defender who trod a similar path to team-mate Billa, having joined the German side after a short spell with St. Pölten.

A double-winner in her native Austria with St. Pölten in 2017/18 – her only season with the club – Wienroither made two appearances for the side in the UEFA Women’s Champions League in that campaign, as they bowed out in the round of 32 stage against Man. City, losing 6-0 on aggregate.

The 22-year-old began her Hoffenheim career initially in the Under-20 team in 2018, before being promoted to the senior squad at the beginning of 2019.

The Austrian international has recently added scoring to her game for Die Kraichgauer, having notched her debut Frauen-Bundesliga goal in the 2-1 win at Köln on 5 September, either side of netting in both legs of the 6-3 aggregate qualifying success against Rosengård.

Fabienne Dongus

A midfielder who was appointed Hoffenheim skipper ahead of the 2020/21 season, a successful term whereby they equalled their best-ever league finish and qualified for UEFA competition for the first time.

The 27-year-old is currently in her ninth campaign at the Dietmar-Hopp-Stadion, amassing almost 150 league appearances for the club.

The former Germany youth international broke into the senior side earlier this year, winning two caps as a substitute in friendlies against Australia and Chile.

Twin Tamar is a defender with Serie A outfit Sassuolo, currently in her third year playing in Italy having previously been on the books of Die Kraichgauer – the club signed both sisters ahead of the 2013/14 season from fellow Bundesliga club VfL Sindelfingen.

Ones to watch - HB Køge

New Women’s Champions League format explained

Maria Uhre Nielsen

The young defender – who celebrates her 22nd birthday today – became the first female player to sign a professional contract with the club in July 2020.

Having previously been on the books of Greve IF, she joined her hometown club in 2018.

The HB Køge skipper took over the captaincy in the summer of 2019 – leading the club to a fifth promotion in a row in 2020 followed by a first Elitedivisionen championship last term, breaking the 19-year dominance of Fortuna Hjørring and Brøndby.

Described as being “a person we would like to identify our project with” by the club’s hierarchy, she was dubbed an “atypical leader – not the one who shouts the loudest or who directs her team-mates verbally, but instead takes the lead”, by the team’s sporting manager Jonas Nielsen.

In December 2020 she scooped the club’s inaugural Young Player of the Year award.

Kyra Carusa

The 25-year-old attacker joined the club in February 2020, having previously been on the books of French side Le Havre.

The California-born striker began her collegiate career with Stanford University, before a spell with the Georgetown University team.

The former USA youth international made her Republic of Ireland debut in 2020, having qualified for representation via her grandparents.

In December 2020 she was named the club’s first Women’s Player of the Year and was selected – along with team-mate Kelly Fitzgerald – in the Elitedivisionen Team of the Season for 2020/21, having topped the league’s scoring charts last term.

Cornelia Kramer

The teenage forward came through the ranks at AaB and finished the 2019/20 campaign as the club’s top scorer, helping them to promotion to the top-flight as they finished as runners-up in the second tier behind HB Køge.

She was unable to help the Aalborg-based outfit avoid relegation from the top flight last term.

The 18-year-old put pen to paper on a three-year deal to join HB Køge in June 2021.

The former Danish youth international scored in both legs of the Swans’ 3-0 aggregate Round 2 qualifying success against Sparta Prague, as part of a run of netting in four successive matches.

Key stats

Top five goals of the 2020/21 UEFA Women's Champions League

• Hoffenheim and HB Køge are both featuring in the UEFA Women’s Champions League for the first time ever this season

• Hoffenheim defeated 2021 UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-finalists Rosengård of Sweden over two legs in round two to secure a place in the group stage

• Hoffenheim have won three and drawn one of their previous four European matches this season

• Hoffenheim have scored three goals in each of their last two matches in the 2021/22 UEFA Women’s Champions League

• Laura Wienroither scored a goal in each of Hoffenheim’s last two matches in the 2021/22 UEFA Women’s Champions League

• HB Køge won each of their previous two UEFA Women’s Champions League matches this season without conceding a goal (1-0 away and 2-0 home vs Sparta Praha)

• Cornelia Kramer scored a goal in each of HB Køge’s previous two UEFA Women’s Champions League matches this season

Group stage: all you need to know